Monica Adams Painter - Melbourne, Australia

While you were training at University, were you clear that art would be you full-time career?

Yes, I did believe that it would be my career while I was at uni, probably because of my love for painting and also being surrounded by working artists at uni. I also
believed that if we do what we love then the rest will find a way. Maybe naive optimism and stubbornness helped too.

‘Red Tutu in Blue’

Women are constantly in you work. Can you compare your 1998 series ‘Scarlett Letter’ with your current 2013 Bordello series?

With ‘Scarlet letter’ I painted the woman in a more painterly fashion, and there is
maybe more frailty to the images. They also are painted as if we are observing her. My new ‘Bordello’ girls are stronger women, I’ve used the charcoal line to portray them, I think they are stronger, more present on the canvas. I have also recently introduced new patterns and this has added a new element to the work. The patterns create contrast, she is strong and present but veiled or hidden by the pattern.

My “girls“ have grown and changed as woman the same way I have grown as a woman and an artist.

‘Bordello Nude – red hair’


When I was young, I was influenced by impressionism. In 2000 I was in Paris and saw many of these works. The textures
and patterning inMonet’s works amazed me. I also love modern art, Saatchi Gallery, Jenny Saville figures also amazed me. Graffiti art was also a great influence, like Basquiit .
Graffiti art uses the existing space and creates the work over the top,
creating an abstract quality to the work. I recently explored this idea with my new works, I have painted the pattern first and large loosely painted areas of colour. Afterwards I have drawn on the figure – I love the contrast of the abstract and the figurative.

Your own personal growth

I believe there has been a strong personal growth within myself, both as an artist and a woman.
Painting and working with the female figure for twenty years, I now can suggest her with confidence and ease, all hand drawn. I often draw her many times to get this just right. My skills have improved. I also believe I have more confidence in myself and this is coming through in my art.

The influence of location

Melbourne is a great city and I have painted often in St Kilda. I also have exhibited for 15 years at the Jackman Gallery in St Kilda. There is a creative buzz to St Kilda that I love. I have also worked with many women, models, from St Kilda.

‘Bordello Nude – circle pattern’

Importance of exhibiting near the location

There is a great artistic vibe to St Kilda and the Jackman Gallery. I have worked with many of the woman from St Kilda and was sponsored by a local brothel for the ‘Scarlet letter’ show – they purchased many works. Jackman Gallery with its industrial space is amazing to showcase work too.

‘Bordello Nude – blue on blue’

The effect of local business purchasing local work, in particular this work.

I also have some art at Tolarno Hotel in St Kilda: ‘A Gorgeous Girl’. They have
hung her on a red wall in one of their rooms. Brian Brown, the Australian actor, request that room whenever he stays at Tolarno’s as he loves the painting! A strong Mirka Mora influence is there as she started that hotel and she is a great influence on me also. Many businesses and St Kilda locals have purchased my work, many even buying several works. This support has allowed me to continue as an artist.

In your current exhibition you show your work: ‘Red Haired Girl’. Can you expand on this piece?

Size: 167 x 167 cm
Fine details: oil on canvas, charcoal.
I was working on three smaller works and a large version came to me, I did the red and the pattern first and drew her over the top once the paint was dry. I drew her many times to get her correct. The beauty of charcoal is that it rubs out easily while giving an amazing strong line.

You go beyond the female face and figure and do work with flowers. This has an almost batik effect, am I right?

Yes, I have started using batik patterns. I love to paint them as it adds an abstract quality to the work. Plus it allows me to explore negative and positive space,
surrounding the figure with pattern. Overlaying the figure on top of an already existing pattern creates an interesting effect. I was using a rose pattern recently – I was encouraged by a gallery in Malvern to explore new patterns. This lead to the batik pattern which is all hand drawn on canvas and I’m also using an abstract square pattern. The batik pattern is a traditional pattern used in Indonesia. The pattern gives the work a traditional effect. I’m a great lover of history.

Your nudes have a soft film or covering, can you explain this?

I use many layers of medium washes with oil mediums, this creates this effect. I think it balances the work as I use a thick palette knife and both thin and thick painted marks.

‘Purple Haired Girl’

As well as painting you do classes. Can you tell us about this aspect of your work?

Where: Manyung Gallery, Mt Eliza, drawing and painting classes.
Why: I was traditionally trained at Monash University and I ran my own art school
after leaving Uni: Indigo Art School. It’s great to teach and I have developed a step by step class that teaches students to have the skills to draw and paint. Drawing skills are fundamental in learning to do art. The students are often beginners and after a few weeks they are drawing and painting with great confidence.
It also provides me with an extra income to my painting. sales. I enjoy it very much!

Exhibiting continues to be a major focus for your work. Can you explain what keeps you exhibiting?

I exhibit at three galleries. Godwin Bradbeer, one of my teachers at Monash University, once said to me that “if you do not exhibit your work then it is purely a hobby.” This is very true, exhibiting constantly with galleries also allows customers to view my work. As an artist I work in my studio and hang my paintings around my house until they are finished. Putting them in an exhibition there is a
sense of completion for those works and ideas begin to flow for the next works.

‘Millie 1’

‘Millie 2’

Can you talk about your studio and the amount of time you spend there?

I work on my art at least five days a week. I have a large studio at home: I paint during the day and I will work on a few works in one day. I usually work until the floor is full of laid down paintings and I can no longer move in the studio. Thick medium washes means I have to lie them flat to dry.


Contact details:
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Monica Adams, Melbourne, Australia